The Giant of Africa: Understanding Nigeria’s Influential Role on the Continent

Nigeria’s Influential Role on the Continent
Written by Robin Okwanma

Nigeria’s influential role on the African continent started right from its independence. The Nigerian government started early to push for the promotion of African unity and independence, as well as regional cooperation for economic development. Just as well, the country positioned itself as a regional peace maker.


Nigeria is a member of at least 57 regional and world organizations that push for the establishment of the above-mentioned principles among its members. That includes the Commonwealth of Nations, African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the United Nations

Nigeria: African Peace Missions to Date

Nigeria has been involved in settling disputes in neighboring African countries without attempting to take unlawful control of any nation’s affairs. For instance, Nigeria is at the forefront of activities of both ECOWAS and the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). This is in a bid to foster political and economic stability, as well as regional security across West Africa. The nation has consistently done so, in spite of its own internal challenges.

Nigeria’s Support for Angola

Nigeria’s influential role was clear in its support for the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). This move took place in the wake of an outbreak of civil war following Angola’s independence in 1975. That influence further led the OAU to declare support for the MPLA, over and above the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola.

Nigeria in Defence of Zimbabwe’s Anti-apartheid Struggle

Again, Nigeria sprung to the defense of the Zimbabwean movement to end the apartheid government of Rhodesia. The then military ruler, General Olusegun Obasanjo, also sent a freewill donation in support of the Zimbabwean movement in 1977. It was to the tune of 20 million US Dollars.

Not stopping there, the Nigerian government provided material support and military training to the guerilla forces of Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo. Thus was during the Zimbabwe War of 1979, in fierce resistance to the apartheid government. 

Nigeria in Support of South Africa

Again, the erstwhile struggle by the African National Congress (ANC) to end apartheid in South Africa also enjoyed the support of the Nigerian government. It went beyond the ANC to include undivided support for Sam Nujoma and his group, the Southwest Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) in Namibia. In fact, the Nigerian government implored Pope John Paul II to meet with Oliver Tambo of ANC, and Sam Nujoma of SWAPO in 1982. 

Furthermore, Nigeria’s influential role was demonstrated in its support for South Africa’s economic stability during the latter nation’s apartheid regime. This was in spite of trade embargoes placed on South Africa’s apartheid government. Following Nigeria’s independence, its government welcomed and nationalized those multinational companies that traded with South Africa’s apartheid government. That included British Petroleum, and Barclays Bank

Nigeria and ECOMOG’s Peace-keeping Missions

In order to end the civil war that broke out in Liberia, Nigeria led the peace-keeping forces of ECOWAS (ECOMOG) to the country in 1990. Similarly, the Nigerian government sent a large contingent of soldiers to support ECOMOG forces during Sierra Leone’s civil war of 1998. 

There were reported cases of human rights violations, and no actual mediation for peace, leveled against the ECOMOG forces. Nevertheless, Nigeria helped to restore democracy to both Liberia and Sierra Leone during their troubled times. ECOMOG operated on the principle of minimal interference in each country’s right to democratic self-governance and sovereignty. Thus, the ECOMOG forces, having established order, promptly handed over control to the democratically-elected leaders in each country. 

The original troop of between 3,000 and 4,000 ECOMOG soldiers were drawn from Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Over the course of time, Mali also contributed to the ECOMOG troops. But Nigeria contributed the largest share of military personnel as foundation members of ECOMOG at its onset. 

Final Words

Without doubt, the continuous push for regional stability is clear in Nigeria’s influential role as pacesetter, peacekeeper and agent of development in Africa. Nigeria is also Africa’s largest economy at the moment. Official World Bank reports stated that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product was valued at 477.39 billion US Dollars, as at the end of 2022.

To cap it all, Nigeria’s creative industry has taken the world by storm. The Nigerian movie industry (Nollywood) is the second largest movie industry in the world as of 2023. The country has also continued to produce A-list award-winning music artists of global acclaim – particularly in the Afrobeats genre.

There have been many reported cases of widespread poverty, endemic corruption, organized fraud, and mismanagement of the country’s resources. Nevertheless, Nigeria refuses to be inhibited by its internal flaws. With such determination, Nigeria stands a huge chance of becoming a regional and global political and economic power in the near future. 




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About the author

Robin Okwanma

Hi, I'm Robin Okwanma. Software Engineer || Django, Python || React, React Native || Blogger. Technical Writer.

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